"No man ever steps in the same river twice; for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus c. 500BC
The only certain thing in life (apart from death and taxes) is that everything will change — even in 24 hours the world is dark, light, then dark again. We humans adapt to this ever-changing environment by altering our bodies and our minds to suit the new conditions. This process of adaptation enables us to live successfully in searing heat and freezing cold, in environments as diverse as the Sahara Desert and the Arctic Circle.
Within our brains we create a model of ourselves and of the world to guide our decisions and actions, which we continually modify and correct as we discover errors in it. Sometimes events have such an impact on a person that they overwhelm this ability to update the model to take account of the new conditions and make the adjustments needed to live in harmony with the environment. They cease to be able to understand the world as it is and become bewildered and frightened. They endure chronically elevated stress levels, making them susceptible to disease, and to social problems because of the maladaptive coping strategies they use to help themselves to deal with the difficult feelings the trauma has left them with. In some severe cases their life expectancy can be reduced by as much as 25%. Although most people can muddle through and survive such an unhappy existence, they are, to a greater or lesser degree, no longer able to live satisfying and fulfilled lives.
If you find yourself stressed, anxious or depressed, psychotherapy can help you reclaim your joy for life and enable you to start living again instead of merely existing. Perhaps you have already tried counselling and found it has not worked for you. Well, consider that there are hundreds of different models of psychotherapy, and there are thousands of therapists. The benefit you get from therapy depends on the type of therapy, the skill of the therapist and the relationship you develop with them, so it may be worth trying a different therapist or a different therapy before you give up and resign yourself to suffering for the rest of your life.
Change is happening all the time: it is inevitable. Every day the sun rises in the East, travels across the sky and sets in the west; day turns into night; the seasons take us from hot summer to cold winter; one minute we are in bright sunshine, then in pouring rain. We humans are born as infants, become adults, grow old and die; and during this process, as Shakespeare had it, we experience "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to."
Humans survive because they adapt to change. Your eyes adapt to light and dark to maintain visual acuity, you sweat in the heat and shiver in the cold to keep your core temperature constant, in summer you expose your body to rid yourself of heat and in winter you insulate it to keep warm. Your body adapts as well, so if you carry out heavy manual labour you develop strong muscles. If you experience difficulty or loss in your life you learn how to cope with the difficulty, or to accept the loss. This process of learning involves physical changes within your brain, hundreds of thousands of neurons shed old connections and form new ones all the time, to maintain the constantly changing model of the world and of yourself that enables you accurately to remember the past, deal appropriately with the present and make predictions about the future.
By adapting both your body and your mind to changes in the physical world you are able to reduce the impact of unfavourable events and exploit the benefit of favourable ones, by means of this, you enhance your wellbeing and you maximize your chances of survival. To live a happy and a healthy life, you must adapt continually to accommodate changes that have occurred and, in a process of adaptation, make adjustments to that model in your mind which creates your understanding of the world and your place in it.
Sometimes the scale of certain events overwhelms your senses and slows or halts the process of mental adaptation described above. Major losses, can devastate your life; shake your stability to its core and leave you wondering who you are and how you are going to survive the next twenty four hours. Trauma, Bereavement, Relationship breakdown, Job loss, and financial insecurity can be the cause of unbearable stress, anxiety and depression; they threaten your settled way of life and put a strain on your relationships.
Even after catastrophic events, given time, most people regain their ability to adapt to the new milieu in which they live, but sometimes you can become stuck and unable to create a new, accurate model of the world and a new understanding of yourself as a person. You are now equipped with a defective map of the territory; the world becomes an unpredictable and a more dangerous place, you experience chronic anxiety and you can become more vulnerable to disease and unhappiness. This kind of malaise often has an infectious quality and can result in family members and close friends becoming unhappy and unhealthy as well.
As an example of this process of change let us consider bereavement. After such an event, there follows a process of adaptation, generally known as mourning, in which, over a period of time, the bereaved person changes their internal model of the world, so it now no longer includes their loved one in the context of their present and future existence. Once this has happened, they are able to lead a healthy and relatively contented, if altered, life. If a person is unable to adapt, to accommodate this new reality, they will get stuck in the pain of their loss, unable to obtain peace of mind. They will experience mental, and possibly physical, ill-health. Unresolved grief is usually accompanied by anxiety, depression and strain on relationships; people suffering in this way are often more susceptible to colds and 'flu, because anxiety and depression suppress the immune system and make the body less able to throw off minor ailments.
The process of adaptation to change can often be facilitated by counselling or psychotherapy, which allows a person to re-evaluate their life, perhaps getting them out of dead-end thinking and helping them to move forward into the present moment rather than being stuck in the past, bewildered by the present, and fearful of the future.
Life sometimes can be precariously balanced, like this pile of pebbles; you have to tip-toe around it, avoid making waves, or walk on egg-shells, to keep it from falling over, because, if you relax your concentration and allow your authentic self to emerge -- even for a moment, the shock could result in this edifice coming crashing down, leaving your world in ruins. The energy you use up every day to stop catastrophe happening may result in you becoming stressed and anxious, or depressed, but whatever symptoms it manifests, you will be left exhausted and reduced to surviving rather than living a free-flowing, enjoyable and fulfilled life. If this simile describes your life at the moment, now might be a good time to seek counselling and, with the help of a trusted professional, to look at alternative ways of being that could make it easier to live in a less stressful way.
If you choose not to get help, there may come a time when your stores of energy are depleted and you have no more resources to juggle all the demands you place on yourself. At that point the edifice can become unstable and threaten to crumble, or it can actually disintegrate and leave you with the ruins of what was once your life. That may be the point at which you decide to seek support from counselling, but because of the enduring stigma associated with mental ill-health, even at this low point, some people would rather live with their pain, or even to die with it, than admit they need help.
There are some specific conditions that require psychotherapy rather than counselling, for example post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which affects people who have experienced major trauma. Not everyone who survives a dreadful event will acquire PTSD, but many do.
People understand if you have been tortured, raped, injured by enemy action or seen your comrade die under fire, or you have been badly injured in a car crash, that you might develop this condition. But something supposedly natural such as difficult childbirth can also be traumatic and permanently affect your peace of mind.
What is not so widely know is that the effect of less powerful negative experiences, such as abuse, humiliation, failure, bullying or losses of any kind, especially if repeated, can also have a similar effect. You can feel powerless, hopeless, unloved and unsafe; emotions that rob life of its joy and turn every day into a into ordeal which at best can only be endured.
The good news is that the majority of people who suffer these difficulties can be helped by psychotherapy; you do not need to spend the rest of your days focusing on survival, confined within a colourless and constricted world.
My Training and Qualifications
I have a Diploma in Counselling and my experience and proficiency were endorsed by one of the leading professional bodies for regulating the counselling profession in the UK when I received accreditation as a counsellor and psychotherapist by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy 8 years ago. I adhere to the BACP professional standards within my practise. I am also a trained Further Education teacher and hold a Professional Diploma in Education. To maintain my name on the Professional Standards Authority Accredited Register, I am required to undertake regular clinical supervision and maintain my proficiency as a counsellor and psychotherapist provide evidence of my work on continuing professional development.
I have practised as a counsellor and psychotherapist for 17 years, in the voluntary sector, for the NHS, and in private practice within the Greater Manchester area, including Central Manchester and Rochdale. I have considerable experience of working with clients both in time-limited episodes of counselling and longer term psychotherapy. Most of the clients I see resolve their issues satisfactorily within the 4 to 12 appointment model of time-limited counselling, but other clients I have worked with (some of whom were discharged by the NHS with issues still unresolved) needed longer term psychotherapy to help them alleviate their problems.
Clients seek therapy for various reasons, but the most common problems that brought clients I have seen to therapy are:
• Anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks.
• Depression, including postnatal depression and pervasive sadness.
• Couple and relationship issues including restoration of trust following affairs, or when the relationship is irreparably broken, enabling separation or divorce to take place with the minimum of distress to both partners.
• Bereavement, loss and unresolved grief.
• Addictions including alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping/shoplifting, exercise and work. (Eating disorders also fall within this classification.)
• Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following RTC's, extreme violence, sexual assault, childhood abuse, difficult childbirth, or periods of severe pain.
• Stress resulting from workplace, financial and interpersonal difficulties.
I mainly work with adults (over the age of 18) of both sexes and both gay and straight, on a one-to-one basis, unless I am working with a couple trying to resolve difficulties within their relationship.
Areas with easy access to treatment venues
My practice in Central Manchester is within easy reach of all the towns in Greater Manchester including: in the South, Stockport, Bramhall, Bredbury, Cheadle, Cheadle Hulme, Handforth, Hazel Grove, Hyde and Wythenshaw; in the North, Bury, Radcliffe, Whitefield, Prestwich, Heywood and Middleton; in the West, Altrincham, Hale, Timperley, Sale, Urmston, Carrington, Cadishead, Partington, Irlam, Eccles, Worsley, Swinton, Bolton, Westhoughton, Atherton, Tyldsley; and in the East, Oldham, Failsworth, Ashton, Mossley, Stalybridge, Royton and Shaw.
Whilst my Rochdale practice covers Rochdale borough and the Rossendale Valley including Rawtenstall, Waterfoot, Bacup and Whitworth; Littleborought, Todmorden and and the Calder Valley are also in easy travelling distance.